I made plans to join my friend and board member Jim McGannon at Spinney for some lake fishing. Usually I pack the gear into the truck the evening prior, but for a variety of reasons I didn’t get to it until 7am. I loaded the tubes, the frame, the oars, the PFD, the gear bag that has the lake flies, a reel, etc. I double-checked the items that I’ve forgotten in the past, but didn’t consult my list — it was in a notebook on the frame, already in the truck… It wasn’t until about 8am, just as I was crossing over Trout Creek pass, that I realized that I didn’t pack my fly rod — a 6wt I keep in a PVC tube.

Jim often has a spare rod in his truck, so I wasn’t too worried. By the time I got to Spinney he was on the water, and so I followed my usual routine and rowed out some 200 yards off shore. There were a lot of boats, I wasn’t sure which one was Jim, and so I decided to simplify my fishing setup. I threaded a slip bobber onto a 20′ of 15lb Maxima, which I then attached to the end of the fly line. On the other side of the Maxima, the usual setup — a swivel, and 4′ of 12lb fluoro line, with overhand knots a foot apart. I tied on three flies, each on a 4′ dropper 4lb fluoro loop knot and laid it all out into the water. Water was fairly shallow, just 10′, so I set the bobber to keep the lowest fly a foot off the bottom. I then paid out 20′ of fly line, while rowing the pontoon I figured a rod is only useful for casting and for playing the fish. The part I just circumvented, and I hoped that all the years of playing fish on tenkara rod and then delicately hand-lining the fish in would be about same. The first fish that took was a 20″ rainbow. Beautiful fish, and it came to me very gently. I find that the gentler I tug on the fish, the less effort it is bring them in. My strategy was a bit lacking though, as my net was by my hand, and it got wrapped up in all the line that I brought in. I almost had the fish in the net, when it spooked, two of the flies got stuck in the net, the fish spat the third fly, and swam away…

Another half hour passed, and the slip bobber dipped! This fish was more of a fighter — I had to keep dumping the line of the reel as it ran, spinning my pontoon around, and even pulling me at times! I don’t know how long it took for me to bring it in — maybe 10 minutes? A beautiful fish appeared from the depths just between my feet — I knew it was close, as I was at the end of Maxima, but without a rod to direct the fish, I was rather at its mercy. It swam a few small circles, then I scooped it with the net. It was a 24″ fish, nice and heavy, with a kyped jaw. I was going to keep it for a 83 y/o friend who doesn’t get out to fish much anymore. A fish like this would make 7-8 dinners for him — cut into steaks, seasoned, and baked.

Alas, the catch-and-release is so ingrained in me that I leaned forward to keep the fish and the net in the water, and to untangle all the flies — those #18’s, wrapped around a big fish, stuck in the rubber net. I was doing well for about 30 seconds, when the fish summoned some last energy, flipped out of the net, and swam away! If I were a better “meat angler,” I would have strung it up right away and only then dealt with the hooks… But I was happy for the fish, it was a beautiful specimen :)